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Easy A (2010)

The rumors of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated.

— Olive Penderghast

Easy A is one of those that I wanted to see, but I was hesitant to watch. Maybe because that is could have sucked, just another chick flick or maybe the high praise for the movie would give me high expectations for it. A friend of mine wanted to watch the movie via Netflix Watch Instantly while I was over at her place. The movie was surprisingly good.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is a typical high schooler. She doesn’t belong to a particular clique. She wants to find a date. She is interested in long-time friend, Todd (Penn Badgely) who is the school mascot, the Woodchuck, but she is too chicken to tell him how she feels.

Olives lies to her best friend, Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about going on a “date” to get out of a dorky camping trip thrown by her parents, Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) and Dill (Stanley Tucci)  to stay home alone. When Olive is grilled about the date until she lies to Rhiannon that lost her virginity to a college guy.

The news spread throughout the school like a virus when the ultra-conservative Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears what Olive said. The Christian group at school, which Marianne is the leader, want to help Olive and go to the English teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) to talk about the shame she should feel when they are discussing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

The kids at school suggest that she should wear an “A” on her chest, which she takes it as a challenge. Instead of being on the defensive about the rumor to stop it, Olive put more fuel on the fire. She changes her clothing and wears the A on her chest proudly.

A couple of the boys from school try to take advantages of Olive’s supposed reputation by paying her in gift cards to tell the school that they had slept with her. The fun and games are over when the accusations become out of Olive’s and could destroy other people’s lives.

The movie reminded me that I miss Dawson’s Creek. You have these kids that have this dialogue that no one would eve say, but it works in this movie. The dialogue is fucking hilarious. I wish that I could have been in that high school where everybody is cool and new age from the adults to the students to Olive’s adopted brother, Chip (Bryce Clyde Jenkins).

I really enjoyed this movie until the last act of the movie where it got into familiar territory that bugged me.

Judgment: This movie could be the next Clueless.

Rating: 8/10

Julie and Julia (2009)

I’m Julia Child. Bon appetit!

— Julia Child

I had no inclination of watching Julie & Julia, because I thought that it would be just another chick flick. Now, that Meryl Streep is getting lots of awards attention for her portyal of Julie Child, I had to watch the film to see it. I also heard when you watch the film, it would make you hungry. I had a meal before I watched this. I envied the characters having the chance to try those wonderful dishes.

Based on the novel of the name by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, writer/director Nora Ephron interweaves of two women seeming to live parallel lives at two different times.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is struggling novelist that is working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation answering insurance calls after 9/11. She feels like she hasn’t finished anything in her life. Her friends are becoming more successful than she is, and it makes her feel left out in the cold. After a scathing article about her turning thirty is pressed, she wanted to accomplish something in her life. By suggestion of her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), Julie starts a blog, “The Julie/Julia Project” to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

Flashing back to when Julia Child (Streep) arrives in 1949 France where her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) was transferred to the local embassy. While Paul is at work, Julie tries to find something to do. She has the idea to have a French cookbook in English, which didn’t exist at the time. To do that she had to enlist in cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, but the headmistress, Madame Brassart (Joan Juliet Buck) tries to discourage her for advancing in the school. Her infectious energy makes her the star of the class.

As the movie goes on story highlight coincides in their lives, Powell has doubts that anyone is reading her blog when she receives ingredients from her fans. She is becoming more popular that people want to interview her. Child has an opportunity to author a cookbook with acquaintances, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Linda Emond, Helen Carey).

I heard about the liberties that Ephron with Powell who was having severe martial problems that lead towards her divorce. I enjoyed myself with the movie. Streep was good as Julia Child. Her portion of the movie was better than Powell’s. The sequence with Julia’s sister Dorothy McWilliams (Jane Lynch) visiting them did not have any bearing on the movie to me. I thought the ending dragged on too much that it got syrupy for my tastes.

I was struck about the blog. I want to read it. Does Julie have another one in the works?

Judgment: This movie is a slice of life. Make sure that you have eaten before watching it.

Rating: ****

The Lovely Bones (2009)

My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name, Susie. I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973. I wasn’t gone. I was alive in my own perfect world. But in my heart, I knew it wasn’t perfect. My murderer still haunted me. My father had the pieces but he couldn’t make them fit. I waited for justice but justice did not come.

— Susie Salmon

The Lovely Bones is based on the beloved 2002  book by Alice Sebold that has been receiving universally bad buzz since the award season have started. Director Peter Jackson tries to recapture the spirit of the book while incorporating his signature technological flair. The only reason that I saw this movie was the awards buzz surrounding Stanley Tucci. He is probably a bright spot in this hodgepodge of a movie.

The movie is told in perspective of a 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon (Saiorse Ronan) who is a typical teenager growing up in Pennsylvania. She is full of life, hope, and dreams of being a wildlife photographer when she grows up. There is a British boy at school that is interested in her, Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie).

She doesn’t get along with her parents, Jack and Abigail (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) when they have a petty fight about their shutterbug using all twenty-four rolls that gave it to her along with her camera for her birthday.

That fateful day December 6, 1973 would alter the course of their Norristown neighborhood forever. After school, Susie was walking across a cornfield when a neighbor living across the street from the Salmons, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) approaches her and lures her into a makeshift pit.

Her parents are worried for her when she didn’t come home. Jack canvasses the neighborhood with her picture. Abigail calls the police. Detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) investigates the case. Before there were pictures in the back of milk cartons or amber alerts, the police have a tough time finding Susie, but it’s too late for her.

What the adults don’t know is that “the weird girl” of the neighborhood, Ruth Conners (Carolyn Dando) runs into Susie bolting down the street after escaping from the pit. The unclear thing is that it was her ghost. Susie realizes that she is dead, but is stuck in a type of purgatory called “The In-Between.”

Realizing that Susie is not coming home, the family thrown in chaos when the days turned into months as George Harvey is not caught. He cleans up his tracks, because he is a seasoned serial killer. Thinking that Harvey is getting away with her murder, Susie decides to help her family to find the clues to bring her killer to justice.

This premise seemed very interesting. I have not read the book, but I read a synopsis of the book after I saw the movie. The timeline was condensed from a decade to a year. If Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens incorporated all of the elements from Alice Sebold’s book into the movie, it would have been a more sappy mess then it is.

The family dynamics seemed off with Jack obsessing over his bottle ships, the mother reading cookbooks, the grandmother (Susan Sarandon) wants to makeover the kids to take their mind of their murdered sister. What? I could not buy Wahlberg and Weisz as a married couple. I think they were miscast. The dialogue at times was very wooden and sometimes melodramatic.

The tone runs the gamut of intense drama to fantasy to comedic farce. Disjointed. It’s not cohesive as a narrative. I don’t think that Jackson was the right person to direct this movie. Perhaps somebody like Catherine Hardwicke could have handled the material better with Jackson’s team, WETA doing the stunning visuals.

The CGI effects in the movie were spectacular, but it feels like it was sensory overload at times. I thought that for the most part Saoirse Ronan gave a good performance as well as Stanley Tucci as the serial killer.

Judgment: There is a great revenge story hidden beneath a muddled adaptation under a bunch of bells and whistles.

Rating: **1/2

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What Just Happened (2008)

In Hollywood, everyone can hear you scream.

Based on his book of the same name, famous Hollywood producer, Art Linson brings the fictionalized version of what happened to him in Tinseltown to the big screen. What Just Happened recounts two weeks in the life of Ben (Robert De Niro), a frazzled producer dealing with multiple crises at once.

One crisis deals with a renegade British director, Jeremy Burnell (Michael Wincott) unwilling to change a controversial ending tohis movie, “Firecely.” Will he change the ending to please studio boss, Lou (Catherine Kenner) so it could be shown in Cannes? Should he maintain his integrity and cost the studio $25 million in loss profits?

There is a crisis with Bruce Willis playing a version of himself refusing to shave off his beard before the start of a new picture that Ben wants to start production. His producer life hangs in the balance to the direction Bruce has to make. Will the production shut down, because of facial hair? He tries to get Willis’ agent, Dick Bell (John Turturro) to change his mind.

Lastly, there is a crisis on the personal front with his relationship with his ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn). Is she having an affair with a struggling writer, Scott Solomon (Stanley Tucci)? What is the nature of the relationship between his teenaged daughter, Zoe (Kirstin Stewart) and a dead agent, Jack McDonaugh? Will he find some stability in his life?

This Barry Levinson directed movie gaves a satricial jab to the Hollywood types. The movie is witty. Good dialogue. The pacing is frantic and choatic when Ben is in the car going from appoitment to appoinemnt. It slows down on some of the tender scenes of the film.

The best part of the movie is at the burial of Jack McDoanugh. I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say, Ben, Bruce, Dick and a shovel.

My judgment: If you want to be a producer in Hollywood, this movie would steer you from attempting such a feat.

My rating: ***1/2

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